The Los Angeles County sheriff said his department is investigating after a video emerged online Tuesday appearing to show deputies shooting protesters in the back with pepper balls as they run away in a Hollywood neighborhood.
The footage was taken in the area of Fountain and Highland avenues, according to witnesses. The location in the Los Angeles Police Department’s jurisdiction, not that of the Sheriff’s Department.
In it, a deputy can be seen leaning out the passenger side window of a marked SUV and taking aim at a group of five people walking along a sidewalk.
The group can be seen turning around and running in the opposite direction before deputies fire more than dozen projectiles at the group. Pepper balls could be seen exploding as they struck hard objects including a lamp post and car windshield.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva issued a statement on Wednesday, but did not discuss the incident specifically.
“I am aware of two videos circulating on social media involving my deputies,” he said. “As with all use of force incidents, these cases will be thoroughly investigated, and we will also examine the facts, policies & procedures.”
“As I have stated before, this is another example of why we so desperately need the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the LASD body-worn camera project. The public deserves dull transparency.”
It was not clear whether the deputies involved in the Hollywood incident were equipped with body cameras.
Villanueva added that he urged witnesses to the incident and the events leading up to it to contact the Sheriff’s Department.
Villanueva discussed the use of less-lethal weapons during civil unrest during an interview with KTLA on Wednesday morning.
“They only should be used when the need is there. Obviously, if you’re taking rocks and bottles in a confrontation … there’s no politically correct way to address the fact that you’re being assaulted, but with a deadly weapon,” Villanueva said.
“I expect the deputies to defend themselves and how ever they can do so with less-lethal force, which is the whole idea of the rubber bullets here, rubber batons. These are 40 mm, 37 mm, the pepper balls — all these different devices are designed to get someone’s attention without injuring them.”